Section: Features

First-year class navigates college life in a post-Roe Gambier

Now that Roe v. Wade has been overturned and Ohio has restricted access to abortion, some students are worried about recent changes to their rights. First years who are entering Kenyon in an already tumultuous and formative time have to navigate their healthcare options with few resources to guide them. Ohio’s complicated political landscape compounds the confusion that first years are facing, especially since much of the Kenyon community arrives in Gambier from out of state.

In June, the Supreme Court released its decision on the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization case that overturned Roe v. Wade and eliminated the constitutional right to abortion in the United States. Immediately following the release of the decision, so-called “trigger laws,” which were designed by states, including Ohio, to go into effect immediately should Roe be overturned, became law. The current post-Roe law in Ohio makes abortion illegal after six weeks’ gestation, except in cases where the patient’s life is at risk. Ohio state law also requires abortion seekers to attend a counseling session prior to the procedure, and dependents under the age of 18 must have the consent of at least one parent or guardian. 

For Kenyon first years, the complicated healthcare landscape is another item on a long list of challenges that college life poses. Much of the student population comes from states beside Ohio, with New York and California being among the most well represented. Moving from predominantly liberal areas to Ohio, a swing state, has forced them to reckon with the effects of political polarization that may have been less prominent in their home cities. “It’s a bit of a culture shock, especially realizing that even other students at the school may not necessarily have the same beliefs as you, but it’s still interesting to hear other points of view and understand that everything is a lot more nuanced than it seems,” said Caroline Teichert ’26, who is from Chevy Chase, Md. and moved to Gambier two weeks ago with her fellow first years. 

Ohio’s unique legislative situation is familiar to students coming to Gambier from within the state. “With Ohio being a swing state, there is a definite rehash about abortions. Governor DeWine has been clear in communicating his pro-life stance, but there are still supportive people and institutions,” Johanna Huelsman ‘26 wrote in a message to the Collegian

Privilege can also play a central role in students’ perceptions of the Ohio abortion situation. “I have the resources to go back home and obtain an abortion if I need one because I would have the support of my family and I’m from a very liberal area,” said Celia Goldstein ’26, who is from New York City. She added that she is opposed to Ohio’s restrictions on reproductive care despite her ability to access abortion elsewhere, and she expressed sympathy for the members of the Kenyon community who don’t have such access. 

President Sean Decatur released a statement shortly after the news of the ruling broke, which said that “Kenyon continues to support the right of individuals to make their own medical decisions.” Decatur’s statement also reiterated that students could reach out to the Cox Health and Counseling Center, where access to contraceptives, including Plan B, remains unchanged. Decatur stopped short of pledging to help students seeking abortions. 

Since the new abortion laws in Ohio have only been in effect since late June, it remains to be seen how the ever-changing political landscape will affect Kenyon’s enrollment in the years to come. It is possible that prospective students will balk at Ohio’s conservatism, but Goldstein said that it wouldn’t have made a difference to her: “I would have taken it into consideration, but I don’t think the abortion laws would have changed my decision to come to Kenyon.”

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